- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia Sydney got it right. The city pulled it off. The 2000 Summer Olympics, from a logistic and administrative standpoint, was a success. The buses worked, the trains worked, the volunteers were great and the facilities excellent.
Pay no attention to the country behind the curtain, though. It is an illusion a drug-induced illusion, no less like what you watched every night on NBC (at least, for those few who watched it).
In order to make this work, the Australian government spent $1 billion. If the games make it to Athens in 2004 a big if because there are doubts the city can be ready it will cost the Greek government at least $5 billion.
Also, with the influence of television money, it's unlikely you will see any games taking place on this side of the Earth for a long time. That means Toronto, not Beijing, probably will wind up with the 2008 Summer Games, which would kill any chance that the 2012 games would come to the Washington-Baltimore region.
We can only hope.
Still, we come to praise what we have seen here in the past two weeks, not to bury it. So, here's a look at the United States' best and worst of the 2000 Summer Games:
Best story: Not Marion Jones but Wyoming farm boy Rulon Gardner, hands down. Or, in his case, hands locked. Gardner's 1-0 defeat of Alexandre Karelin for the super heavyweight gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling was the most stunning Olympics upset in years. Gardner had never finished higher than fifth in international competition, and here he beat a man who had not lost in 13 years, who had only one point scored on him in the past 10 years, who was so feared that opponents would quit rather than take a beating.
Poor Matt Ghaffari. The American lost to Karelin 1-0 in overtime in the Atlanta Games and had wrestled Karelin 22 times and lost every time. Karelin was Ghaffari's great white whale. Now along comes Gardner hardly a legend and he beats the greatest wrestler of all time (and that includes Bruno Sammartino). It's like Ahab watching a power boater catch Moby Dick with a pocket fisherman.
Worst story, American or otherwise: Nandrolone … erythropoietin … pseudoephedrine. Drugs were the biggest story in Sydney and a problem that threatens to bring down the Olympics.
Best local story: Tom Dolan. The Arlington, Va., swimmer successfully defended his 1996 gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley. Dolan, who suffers from asthma, could barely breathe hours before the race and had to spend an hour on an oxygen tank inside a hot trailer in order to compete.
It was a big Olympics for the American Lung Association. Not only did Dolan win a gold, but two other swimmers with asthma did as well: Tom Malchow in the men's 200-meter butterfly and Misty Hyman in the women's 200-meter butterfly.
Best team: U.S. baseball. This group of career minor leaguers and young, unproven kids beat the most dominant international baseball power of the past 20 years, the Cuban national team, and won gold. They did it with a great attitude and unselfish play. For most, it was the highlight of their athletic careers exactly what winning Olympic gold should be.
Best-liked American: The international fans loved Tommy Lasorda and his willingness to play this show up for all it was worth. If you can't wave the flag at the Olympics, then you don't get it, period. With all the hoopla about winning five golds, you never heard Marion Jones talk about winning for her country.
By the way, Lasorda didn't get a gold medal, which annoyed him. "I guess they don't think managers and coaches are important enough," he said. Lasorda deserves one, because they don't win it without him. Not only did he do a masterful motivational job, he out-managed Cuba's Servio Borges. Lasorda set his rotation so that his best pitcher, young Ben Sheets, would pitch in the gold-medal game. Borges, the national team manager for 31 years, lost the gold medal when he threw his best pitcher, Jose Contreras, in the semifinals against Japan.
Worst team: The Dream Team, otherwise known in Australia as the "Scream" team. The NBA's Olympic experiment is now an unmitigated disaster. What is the point of putting up with high-priced superstars if they nearly lose, as they did in the 85-83 squeaker over Lithuania? Their chest-thumping theatrics turned off the Superdome crowds and turned the Dream Team into the most hated group of athletes in Sydney.
Biggest jerk: Make that jerks. The American 4x100-meter relay team Maurice Greene, Jon Drummond, Bernard Williams and Brian Lewis clowned around and made faces while getting its gold medals Saturday. They should not be allowed to represent the United States again, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Let them run under the Nike flag.
Biggest jerk not participating: 330-pound C.J. Hunter. Please don't hate him because he lacks iron in his diet the reason he gave for his positive steroid tests at summer competitions. If you prick him, does he not bleed? And test positive?
Biggest disappointment: You could make a case for the American boxing team, which was shut out of a gold medal for the first time since 1948. But it's tough to fault the program when its fighters are facing more experienced amateur boxers, some of whom competed in two or three Olympics. The biggest American disappointment is one that slipped quietly by, the men's 200 meters. Coby Miller and John Capel Jr. finished seventh and eighth, last in the field, in a race won by Konstantinos Kenteris of Greece the first Greek track medal in modern history. Either Greene or Michael Johnson should have won that gold medal.
They got so caught up in their 200-meter WWF showdown at the U.S. trials that both pulled up lame during the race, and neither qualified. Johnson won the 200 gold in Atlanta four years ago in a world-record 19.32 seconds. Greene ran a 19.90 at the world championships last year. Their egos cost the Americans the medal.
Biggest loser: Dick Ebersol, there's a call for you on line four. It's QVC. They received your resume, and they'll get back to you.
Best biographical data: The bio on swimmer Gary Hall Jr., supplied by the Sydney Organizing Committee, ends with this tidbit: "Hall's grandfather, Charles Keating III, was involved with the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan, which resulted in his grandfather spending time in a Tucson, Arizona, jail." They love Gary Hall in Australia, don't they?
Best quote to sum up the American experience: "I don't know anything" Craig Masback, head of USA Track & Field, when first asked about the positive test results for C.J. Hunter.
I've been here for three weeks. I don't know anything either.

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